Friday, November 8, 2019

#LulaLivreAgora (Nov. 8, 2019)

Brazil’s Supreme Court decided to end the mandatory imprisonment of convicted criminals after they lose their first appeal. The 6-5 decision yesterday is politically charged, and could release almost 5,000 inmates who are still appealing their convictions, including jailed former president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Judges determined that each case will be decided individually, and Lula's lawyers said they have already requested his immediate release.

The decision overturns a decision by the same court three years ago, that corruption prosecutors said helped push suspects to negotiate plea bargains. But critics say the move was unconstitutional and violated the presumption of innocence.

News Briefs

  • The family of Cuban José Daniel Ferrer, were able to see the dissident who has been detained for 38 days. The leader of the Unión Patriotica de Cuba showed them evidence that he is being tortured and threatened, they said. (Cuba Net, 14yMedio)
  • A protest will be held demanding Ferrer's release in Washington DC today, reports Univisión.
  • The Cuban government carried out 301 arbitrary detentions in October, according to the Madrid-based Cuban Observatory of Human Rights, which says the statistic confirms a trend of increasing repression under President Miguel Díaz-Canel. (Radio Televisión Martí)
  • "If Venezuela has dropped out of the international news it is largely because the most important battle for political power is happening in Caracas: negotiations over the election of a new electoral council (CNE) and legislative elections in 2020," write David Smilde and Dimitris Pantoulas in the latest Venezuela Weekly. The government-loyal CNE has been a major factor behind voter alienation and abstention. A properly established new body would likely ensure massive electoral participation that would sweep out the ruling Socialist Party -- but it is by no means clear that the selection process will proceed in that direction. The standoff will become central next year when there are constitutionally mandated legislative elections. (See yesterday's post also.)
  • The Economist goes behind the anti-government barricades in Bolivia, where protesters rallied by Santa Cruz leader Luis Fernando Camacho are demanding President Evo Morales' resignation. (Journalist Sarah Maslin has more details and photos on Twitter, she notes that Camacho, not opposition presidential candidate Carlos Mesa is more in control of protests.) More broadly, the standoff over the disputed Oct. 27 elections seems increasingly intractable: the opposition no longer trusts the OAS which is conducting an audit, and even if the 30 member team of experts concludes there were irregularities, it's not clear how a second round might be held. (See yesterday's post.)
  • Violent protests continued in La Paz yesterday night with reports of clashes involving Molotov cocktails and at least four people wounded, including two police officers, according to the New York Times.
  • A Chilean police major who shot two students during a school protest has been arrested. Prosecutors announced that 12 other police were under investigation for allegedly beating a 55-year-old man, reports the Guardian. In the third week of protests, Chilean President Sebastián Piñera summoned the heads of the armed forces, supreme court and congress for an urgent meeting of the national security council, yesterday. He called for emergency legislation to increase prison sentences for protesters who wear masks, build barricades or destroy property. Piñera also called for the creation of a new intelligence effort to increase surveillance of politically active Chileans.
  • Upheaval around the region resists easy categorization, and shows that the left-right pendulum is no longer a useful tool for understanding political evolution in Latin America, write Francisco Toro and James Bosworth in the Washington Post. "... There’s no simple gloss on the cyclonic forces shaking Latin America right now. The region is angry. Citizens have lost patience with their political systems and they’re looking for politicians willing to toss out the old system without a clear vision of what comes next. That anger crosses ideological lines, focuses on local policy challenges and has no regard for the old left-right debates of the region’s past."
  • The United States imposed sanctions on three Nicaraguan government officials yesterday, part of an effort to add pressure against President Daniel Ortega's administration, reports Reuters.
  • Jamaica will conclude its 36-month US$1.65-million precautionary Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) with the IMF on Monday. The international lending organization lauded the government's commitment to sustain fiscal and monetary policy discipline, reports the Jamaica Observer. (See also IMF.)
  • The killings of six children and their three mothers this week burst the illusion that only criminals fall victim to Mexico’s gang-fueled violence, reports the New York Times. The attack on a prominent Mormon family, many members of which are U.S. citizens, cut through the grim statistics of a nation whose homicide rate is a record highs.
  • Some members of the Mormon community of La Mora feel the attack is a sign they should abandon the site in Mexico, while others hope to use international attention to pressure Mexico's government for solutions. (Washington Post) Local families say the attack was not a case of mistaken identity, as the Mexican government has argued. Instead it could be part of inter-cartel warfare, they say. (Washington Post)
  • "Worsening violence around Mexico in recent years reflects an increasingly volatile criminal landscape," write NYT reporters in response to readers questions. "The idea of using the armed forces to end the violence sounds appealing, but the reality is much more complex."
  • And if the U.S. really wants to help the Trump administration should back gun control efforts at home, bills that would make it harder for Mexican organized crime to obtain trafficked weapons, writes Ioan Grillo in a New York Times op-ed.
  • The attack "has contributed to a sense of desperation and frustration in Mexico," writes León Krauze in Post Opinión. Underlying the violence is the country's failed drug strategy he writes. While a proposal to legalize opium for medicinal use has promise, guaranteeing poor agricultural communities income is the most important step to wresting power away from cartels, he argues.
  • Four indigenous Mexicans who were illegally detained and abused by Mexican immigration agents in 2015 received a rare public apology by the Mexican government, reports the Guardian.
  • Water scarcity is fueling a black market and theft in Mexico City, reports Americas Quarterly.
  • Colombian President Iván Duque is on weak footing after his defense minister resigned on Wednesday night, in the midst of a scandal about eight minors killed in a military raid against FARC dissidents. (See yesterday's post.) "The scandal has thrown Duque's already unpopular administration in disarray and further undermined confidence in the nation's armed forces, as they struggle to contain violence in remote pockets of Colombia's countryside," reports the Associated Press.

Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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